As the debate rages on among New Zealand rugby followers as to who should start at first-five for the All Blacks between Beauden Barrett and Richie Mo’unga, two Kiwi stars have given their verdicts on the predicament.
Much has been made about who should don the No. 10 jersey in New Zealand’s first test of the year against the Wallabies in Wellington on Sunday.
Mo’unga shone as arguably the form player of Super Rugby Aotearoa as he guided the Crusaders to their fourth title in as many years, but he is in direct competition with two-time World Rugby Player of the Year Barrett, who remains one of the world’s top players, for a starting role.
Speaking on the Aotearoa Rugby Pod, former All Blacks hooker James Parsons and Maori All Blacks halfback Bryn Hall were at odds over who should be handed the playmaking reigns to start the international season.
Parsons, a Blues veteran of eight years, believes his franchise teammate Barrett deserves the starting first-five role due to the attacking threat he poses.
“I think Beauden, with his speed – like I agree Richie’s probably the form 10 – but I like Beauden in the 10 jersey and I think he has to be on the field,” Parsons said.
“I think when he plays flat, you just have to be on him, and you’re not on, he’ll go. He’s just got that speed, that tempo, and he’s good enough.”
However, as Mo’unga’s halves teammate at the Crusaders for the past four years, Hall disagreed.
“Nah, Richie for me, mate,” he said. “I got to say that as a teammate and Jip’s [Parsons] got to say that as a teammate as well.”
Given both Mo’unga and Barrett started alongside each other for the All Blacks at last year’s World Cup – Mo’unga at first-five and Barrett at fullback – the selection situation extends to who will fill New Zealand’s No. 15 jersey.
While Parsons and Hall sided with their Super Rugby teammates regarding the No. 10 role, both players agreed that Hurricanes star Jordie Barrett warranted selection at fullback.
“I just think Jordie has to be at fullback, doesn’t he? His ability in the air, his ability to kick, his decision-making, offload, his passing,” Parsons said.
“He definitely deserves a crack.”
The pair subsequently expected changes to the way in which the All Blacks’ playing style on attack without the dual playmaking axis between Mo’unga and Barrett.
“It’ll be interesting as well, because if you in that World Cup, they wanted Beaudy and Richie, and the game plan kind of dictated that with how they wanted to play,” Hall said.
“They wanted to play with a bit of width, get it to the second pair of hands with Beaudy there being able to play both sides of the field, so if they lose that and have just Richie or Beaudy, will there be changes in their game plan from what they wanted to do at the World Cup?”
Parsons seemed to think so, noting: “We’re talking a hell of a lot about the Wallabies and what they’re going to do, but at the end of the day, the All Blacks are probably going to have a style change. It’s not just going to be the same 1-3-3-1 split attack.
“It could look a lot different to us as well, so there is the unknown on both sides if you really think about it because they’re going to come out of a World Cup review and know that they’re going to have to evolve and change.
“What that looks like, we don’t know.”
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